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Taxpayers mum on county spending

"Kitsap County taxpayers haven’t been a vocal bunch lately.They expressed themselves in November by voting for Initiative 695 to repeal the state car license tax and give them final say on proposed tax and fee increases.But this month, as county government officials wrangled over a budget constricted by I-695, taxpayers have barely made a peep.“This is one of the toughest budget years we’ve had,” said County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido, who is disappointed that she hasn’t heard more comments about the proposed budget reductions. “I’ve read letters to the editor, but there has been very little public input” in formal commissioners’ meetings, she said. There have been three opportunities for the public to address the commissioners on this topic so far.Vivian Henderson, governmental affairs director for the Kitsap County Association of Realtors, echoed Garrido’s sentiments at another lightly attended hearing Monday. Henderson hoped people would be more involved in telling the commissioners what they considered budget “fat” – whether it be parks, programs for the elderly or other services.During the commissioners’ public work-study session this morning in the Public Works Department building in Port Orchard, county administrator Malcolm Fleming was scheduled to present the final 2000 budget draft. In 2000, the county plans to spend 1.9 percent more than 1999’s $57 million budget. Fleming explained that the increase is primarily from “several significant uncontrollable cost increases.” These include medical insurance premiums that jumped 16 percent despite the county tripling employee co-pay charges. Unfunded state mandates represent a multi-million dollar drain on the budget, Endangered Species Act rules will be expensive to implement and enforce, and supplies to county agencies increased by more than the cost of inflation.The commissioners plan to adopt the budget Dec. 20 during their regular meeting at 10 a.m. in the county courthouse. At that time, taxpayers will have their final opportunity to comment on how county officials plan to spend their money."

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